A date with Nestle’s Carnation Topping proves that influencers are here to stay

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‘In space, no one can hear you blog’. That might have been a neat pastiche on the blogger breed back when they were nerdy, every PC had a tower the size of a garage and the word ‘influence’ was only associated with their older sportier siblings.

But then YouTube came along. And when bloggers became vloggers and then in turn became influencers – suddenly blogger space became very loud! Oh and lots of people were watching and listening. There’s a lot of debate at the moment being churned out of the various opinion grinders, will the influencer bubble burst and if so when?

Well, allow my own sweet ‘evaporated’ dollop of the debate to hit your screen if you will and read on. I know that’s a quite an ask because I’m not a social media influencer. I’m not even popular. The chances are though that if your eyes are still scanning these words, you’re more interested in the marketing perspective of how the phenomenon pans out. I’m less inclined to believe that you’re searching for the next generous write up on your favourite Morrisons shopping haul content producer (if so you can check out the latest from the Freer family, here.

Will influencers disappear off our social channels any time soon? Would brands of the future still need them to promote their values? As part of my own personal research I decided to go on a date with a can of evaporated milk. It would be more of a coffee and a chat, it was a first date after all, but I hoped that I could find out more about my associate, maybe even flirt and get a number!

The café was cool and pain au chocolate delicious. The coffee was hot and strong. As a social interaction though, the date was a total disaster. The conversation was completely one-sided throughout. I only ever got anything back if I picked up my date, a bit embarrassing in a public place, and read through pointers on the label. There was a suggestion I pour my date’s contents over warm crumble, an indication of the percentage of my recommended daily amount of saturates that lie within and also a consumer helpline number (result). We did kind of click on the sustainable front though as it turns out my date’s exterior is widely recyclable. The problem is, I had to find this out for myself while my date was man-handled in a state of permanent stunned silence.

After running out of football conversation, describing what I’d be cooking for Sunday roast and laughing out loud at the latest Trump meme… I gave up and asked for the bill. In the awkward moments that ensued I couldn’t help thinking that I’d stitched myself up. Why would I choose to flirt openly in public with a can of evaporated milk? And yet there was so much I still didn’t know about Nestle Carnation topping. Why is it evaporated? Is it actually milk? Is it OK to drink the ‘milk’ from a can? How do you make crumble? What are you actually supposed to do with evaporated milk?

In the end my wife turned up, picked up the can, put it her bag and on the way home she found the time to not only listen to my bad jokes but also talk through a delicious dessert her grandma makes with evaporated milk! Yes that’s right a HUMAN that I trusted (my wife) and a STORY (Grandma’s famous Brazilian dessert with whipped cream) with CHARACTERS (Grandma and my wife) finally came to the rescue! And it’s this most ancient and powerful of collaborations, the human and the story, which is the main reason why I think that in the world of promoting brands and products, social influencers are here to stay. And until algorithms find a way to master storytelling, which is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world, brands will use people to tell their stories. People buy from people. They mostly go on dates with other people too.

The social channels were created for humans to share info and communicate with each other. Influencers still have to build trust with a loyal sizable audience and engage them with regular content which must resonate and pull emotional levers. That’s the hard part. Once a blogger has achieved this then their advocacy of any brand has a chance of connecting and landing in the brains of their audience. It is much harder for a brand to achieve this - which is why they have to humanize and create characters in their social advertising. Ultimately though a human will always trust another human over and above a brand especially when you consider that social is so (rightly) conversational.

If you want to know how to make the delicious whipped cream similar to how my grandma-in law makes then check out this video from YouTube vlogger, Vijaya Selvaraju. Sadly, neither my wife or her grandma are YouTube influencers but Vijaya comes close to the secret recipe with this 3 min ‘how to’. My date makes an appearance at 1:34. How to make whipped cream from evaporated milk.

Matt Webster is co-founder and director at Media Bounty.

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